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Book Commercials

As aspiring writer takes an inside
look at online book commercials and shares
some lessons learned along the way..

For nearly sixteen years now, I've worked in various aspects of the promotion business.

Now please don't misunderstand, some of that time was as a lowly college intern promoting athletic events. Part of that time was working in women's lingerie...selling it, not wearing it.

(Well, you know what I mean. I wore it privately. Sold it publicly.)

I worked for a few years at one advertising agency, a couple Internet companies...then back to another advertising agency...and so on.

While I may not be a guru at marketing concepts compared to other geniuses in the business, I'll tell you a juicy tidbit that has become obvious to me over the years. This lesson applies to nearly every market and nearly every product on the shelf.

Promotion efforts generally help people sell their products. Good promotion plans impact sales figures better than lame ones, for the most part. Even if your competition's product isn't as good as yours, customers will take notice if their sales efforts outshine yours...and sometimes they may be swayed to buy the competition's product as a result. Even if your product is superior.

Here's another lesson:

Promotion efforts usually cost money or time. Almost always, both are needed.

I'm doubting that anyone reading this article will dispute these facts. In addition, I also think most of you will agree that even bad promotional efforts are sometimes better than no promotional efforts at all. Awareness alone can count for something.

At the moment, I am taking my career path is taking a new turn by writing a manuscript or two in addition to my routine web design and business consulting projects.

Something that has been catching my attention is the growing trend for authors to create a video about their upcoming manuscripts as they hit the shelves.. Basically mini-videos, these promotional commercials are a great way for authors and publishers to make a certain book stand out among the competition. Let's face it, on a crowded shelf at the bookstore, it's easy to get distracted by other books as you walk down the aisles, at least for me. Full color end caps tease and tempt me to pick up another selection instead...even when I'm shopping for a specific title.

These videos can be a great way to keep a shopper (like me) focused on a specific book and make sure a sale is made at the cash register.

For this article, I spoke with several authors who have created these commercials and tried out some new software by making one for a professional friend of mine.

Cue the background music of intrigue...bum...bum...bum. Here's what I learned.


Generally speaking, book trailers have music in the backgrounds.

Some selections are pirated, or copied, from cds or other sources. Now, this is illegal. But as I write this, I have yet to hear of an author getting named in a lawsuit or even getting a nasty letter, for that matter.

Being a goody-two-shoes girl, I would suggest you buy a legal version of your audio selection. I had a good experience using and found their $30/track price worth it for the piece of mind that everything is legal-eagle with the effort.

Granted, I have seen silent trailers - as well as a few that feature someone talking about a book. In general, I find that the ones with music are the selections that I watch a second or third time and the ones I plunk down money for at my local bookstore. Still, a creative mind could certainly work in all sorts of sounds that would emphasize a book's theme.


The images an author uses are a yummy buffet line of options, too. You can choose still images or streaming video. Text only with various effects. Text with no effects. Or if variety turns you on, an interesting mix of all these ingredients is your best recipe, blended and baked and served to your viewer.

Free images are seemingly available from various sources:

Author's Note:
I have not personally used all of these sites. While that doesn't mean that I won't consider these sources for my future projects, please just be aware that I recommend you read the terms of use and/or touch base with someone who has used their services, whenever possible.

Those creating trailers could, of course, take their own pictures with their digital cameras or create images using various graphic programs. many do...authors can buy images or have their publishers supply legal graphics to use in the project. The going rate for various images hovers around $1-5 per image at various sites

Author's Note:
Same disclaimer as above...please read the terms of use and check referrals if you can.

Software Programs

The programs you can use to create your trailer is smorgasbord of choices that seems a bit shorter.

Some authors I spoke with used Window Movie Maker before uploading the final product to YouTube.

Others used Windows Photo Story.

I purchased and used Adobe's Creative Suite 3 program as the other pieces in that package would benefit my other web creation work. This option is around $1600 and, obviously, may not be a viable option for authors who don't have the same day job as I do. Still, I found the program great for letting me create the effects I wanted in my first try.

If making your own book trailer is a effort that doesn't hold any appeal to you, have no fear. There are companies who can do it for you.

"Book video has the opportunity to do for books what music video did for the CDs," says Sheila Clover English, CEO of Circle of Seven Productions. "It's an evolution of a revolution and the publishing industry has only just begun to see the rewards of online video marketing."

(Readers interested in the pricing structure can click on the first link in the paragraph above to find out more about pricing and benefits for going that route.)

Book Trailer Promotion

Once authors have arranged their images and matched up the music to their liking. it's show time...literally.

Authors should, of course, feature their trailers on their web sites, if at all possible. Other places to feature your trailer include the aforementioned YouTube and MySpace. (The links provided offer some information and uploading instructions for these sites to help get you started.)

WatchtheBook also seems to be a great place to consider listing your trailer. At press time of this article, the listing of your trailer is said to be free...though the site mentions there may be a fee in the future to cover costs. Read the specifics on the program here.

Previewthebook is also a site that I am curious about with regard to book trailer promotion. The site is currently under construction, but promises to provide readers with information "beyond the cover and the spine," including where books can be purchased.

Although the information above may help give you some options to get started with your own trailer, you may well like to hear from some real authors who have created some trailers. How did they do theirs? Would they do it again?

Here is a sampling of a few who were willing to share some morsels of wisdom about their experiences.

Alyssa Day
Vendor: Circle of Seven Productions

"Book videos are a new and innovative element of viral marketing for books - which is critical when so many of our readers are extremely internet savvy.  I was thrilled with the trailer that Circle of Seven designed for me and the many placement opportunities they arranged for it to be seen. 

I'm convinced that the link from the Borders/Waldenbooks e-newsletter to my video resulted in many sales, because it certainly resulted in a huge number of 'hits' on my site.  I will definitely do this again."


Samantha Lucas
(viewers 18 and older only, please)
Program: Windows Movie Maker (free)

"I'm insanely creative so I really enjoyed the process of making the trailer. I bought images from Istock photo and found royalty free music.

I found movie maker easy to manipulate and came up with a product I was very proud of and I can't wait to do my next one and see what else I can come up with."


Clover Autrey
Program: One True Media (free)

"My cover artist used a model from a paid graphic site for my book cover. I was able to find her picture, then click on other images with that model. In the end, I selected a group of images with different angles and moods of the same girl for my book trailer.

One True Media is very user friendly, especially for someone like me who has very little graphic or media experience. Their format is simple enough that I could move the pictures around, set the time for each individual picture and see right on the screen how it fit with the music. I'm happy with the way it turned out."


Laurel Bradley
Program: Microsoft Photo Story 3 (free)

"My friend Brynn Chapman gave a little on-line class on how to make a trailer.  It was really easy.  The program is pretty self explanatory.  The hardest part was finding the pictures and the music.  Because of copyright laws, I used clip art photos and modified some music that came with Photo Story.  I'm a bit of a goody-two-shoes myself. 

I liked the options available with Photo Story.  You can import pictures, modify them (black and white, sepia, watercolor, etc.), give them special effects (slide, fade, spin, etc.), do a voice over, add music and modify music already in the program.  One draw back is that the voice is linked to the photo.  This means there's a pause between photos."


Pam Crooks
(created by article author)
Program: Adobe's Macromedia Flash

Christine says...

"This is the one I did. I've read several of Pam's books and she let me test out my new program on her latest Harlequin release. I love the music she chose and the way the software let me slide out to catch the hero's eyes on the book cover. I'm toying with the idea of adding a book trailer service to my freelance services in the future. We'll have to see how that works out."

Pam says...

"Given that most of us are visual creatures, a trailer is a powerful influence and triggers our curiosity based on the images we see and the effectiveness of the teaser we read. 

On a personal note, however, I tend to be distracted by fast moving images and will neglect the book's blurb while viewing the trailer, at least the first time. Which is why I love the clip for my current release, UNTAMED COWBOY.  Its very simplicity leads to its power.  The viewer is able to focus on the book's summary, scrolled through on an eye-pleasing background, and the lone image which looms toward the end (the book's cover), coupled with dramatic music, is delightfully effective. * Copyright 2007